THIS STORY TAKES
"THE FOUR DOCTORS"
AND THE NOVEL "THE
JONATHAN BLUM &
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JULY 1997.
In the days when
the Time Lords were
young, their war
with the Vampires
cost trillions of
lives on countless
worlds. Now the
Vampires have been
sighted again, in San
Some want to coexist
with humans, using
genetic engineering in
a macabre experiment
to find a new source
of blood. But some
would rather go out
in a blaze of glory -
and UNIT's attempts
to contain them MAY
Now this is more like it! After reading the frivolous and inconsequential Eight Doctors for the first time, I really thought that the glory days of Doctor Who literature were over. Thankfully though Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum, through their thrilling book Vampire Science, managed to restore my severely tested faith in Doctor Who novels. Indeed, the glory days were just beginning...
Vampire Science is simply superb. Kate Orman, Doctor Who’s first female writer in print, quickly established herself as one of the elite writers for Virgin’s New Adventures range,
and rightly so. Whilst I can’t say that I’ve been enamoured with each and every one of her books, they have each been written in her own inimitable style and they have all been very memorable. But this is not just an Orman novel - her husband, Jonathan Blum, is credited
as her co-author and his presence is really felt in earnest. Unlike almost all of Orman’s solo novels, Vampire Science has energy and pace; it’s a novel that’s fully loaded. As Orman’s exquisite prose is as recognisable as ever, I can only assume that Blum is responsible for this novel’s drive.
What really made this book stand out for me though was the way in which it set up the tales that were yet to come. As a ‘pilot’ for a range of books, The Eight Doctors was appalling in the extreme. Vampire Science, on the other hand, is mesmerisingly perfect. Orman and Blum don’t waste words introducing a new companion through superfluous subplot; oh no. Right from the word go, the Doctor and Sam are old friends. They’ve been travelling for a while. She knows the ropes. Sam didn’t need her introduction in the preceding novel; we glean all that we need to know about her character from the first few pages of this story.
Now this would have worked well in itself – Orman and Blum write for the Doctor and Sam
so very well that we simply accept the fact that they have been knocking round the cosmos together for a while. But here is the really clever bit – Vampire Science marks a crucial stage in the Doctor / Sam relationship. This sort of story would normally be, perhaps, the penultimate or even the final story for many companions. Sam has an epiphany. Kramer’s remarks to her about how the seventh Doctor treated Ace, together with the ordeal that she goes through in this novel, really make Sam take stock and consider what she is doing with her life. And, in the end, events here only reaffirm her desire to travel with the Doctor, making this story her perfect introduction. I firmly believe that the eighth Doctor adventures should have started with this novel. If you haven’t read The Eight Doctors, then my advice to you is to simply pick up here and chase the ride.
Furthermore, much as the authors both hoped, the Doctor and his new companion “really sparkle together”. It is not because Sam is a particularly noteworthy companion or even because the eight Doctor is a particularly distinctive Doctor – in fact, the exact opposite could be argued. We have the young and headstrong female companion. She thinks she’s wise and strong, but of course she isn’t. Not underneath. And then we have the ‘mother hen’ Doctor. A bit more debonair, perhaps even a little bit more romantic than his predecessors, but underneath he’s the same sweeping, moral force cloaked in zeal.
“I’m a former President of the High Council of the Time Lords, Keeper of the
Legacy of Rassilon, Defender of the Laws of Time and Protector of Gallifrey.
I’m called the Bringer of Darkness, the Oncoming Storm, and the Evergreen Man...”
Orman and Blum do make a point though of contrasting this new Doctor to his much more unscrupulous predecessor. The UNIT General, Kramer, knew the seventh Doctor very well and frowned upon his manipulative ways. In Vampire Science though, Kramer really doesn’t know what to make of the new Doctor’s persona. Like almost every other female character
in the book, she often seems quite taken with his almost childlike exuberance.
I also liked the San Francisco setting.
It serves as a perfect backdrop for
the war between the young members
of the vampire coven and the elder
vampires. After Terrance Dicks’
complete debasement of the TV
Movie, it was nice to see the setting
of the eighth Doctor’s birth to be
given a little nod here. I understand
that the nod was meant to be considerably more significant - Grace Holloway was originally intended to reprise her role from the TV Movie, but had to be written out due to issues over the rights. Ironically though, her exclusion probably benefited the novel as her ‘replacement’ - Carolyn McConnell - is a revelation. In Vampire Science we first meet Carolyn as a young woman before catching up with her twenty years later for the bulk of the story, and as a result the reader feels like he knows her very well. She has a very endearing normality about her, more so than ever when she is trying to be different. You can’t help but love her.
Vampire Science is replete with yet more memorable characters, most notably the leader of the coven, Joanna Harris, who ‘bonds’ with the Doctor; and the depressed Doctor, Shackle, who becomes so obsessed with the futility of mortality that he allows himself to be turned in- to a Vampire. There is so much inherent conflict between these fascinating characters that, once combined with a corker of a plot, make Vampire Science unputdownable.
Finally, it should also be noted that unlike Dicks, Orman and Blum didn’t take it upon them-selves to try and wipe out all sixty-one of the New Adventures novels. In fact, they treat them with due reverence. Orman and Blum squeeze in a cheeky reference to Yemaya - the setting for Orman’s novel Sleepy – together with countless veiled endorsements of the Virgin range. They even make it clear that during the Doctor and Sam’s travels, one day the Doctor just dropped Sam off at a Rally for a few subjective hours whilst he went off travelling by himself for several years, allowing The Dying Days to be accommodated into the Doctor’s timeline, not to mention a flood of eighth Doctor comic strips and audio dramas released since. I also like the charming way in which the writers have the Doctor refer to himself as being “three years old” – a reference to the age of his eighth persona in this novel - before conceding
that the sum total of all his incarnations is something like 1,012 (if indeed he still has count; Nicholas Briggs and Alan Barnes’ audio drama Orbis would later suggest that he doesn’t…)
For me, Vampire Science could pass for the sixty-second New Adventure. It is true to the spirit of the old Virgin books to such an extent that, if you could wipe The Eight Doctors
from memory, then the transition from Virgin to BBC Books would appears seamless. If anything, BBC Books would be ahead on points thanks to their altogether more impressive cover design!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel posits that the Doctor dropped Sam off at a Greenpeace rally, only to return a few hours later and three years older. Given the tight continuity between the TV Movie and The Eight Doctors, we believe that the Doctor’s adventures with Izzy, Destrii, Stacey, Ssard, Mary Shelley, Samson, Gemma, Charley and C’rizz all take place within this gap, as well as a number of his lone adventures.
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